Polotsk Principality


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Polotsk Principality

 

a Russian principality that was formed in the tenth century by the tribal union of the Polochane. Centered in the city of Polotsk, the principality was situated in the basin of the Zapadnaia Dvina, Berezina and Neman rivers, on an important river trade route. This location favored the early growth of an independent economy and cultural development.

The feudal nobility of Polotsk Principality strove to achieve autonomy from Kiev. Prince Vladimir Sviatoslavich conquered the principality at the end of the tenth century, killing the Polot-skian Prince Rogvolod. Vladimir later bequeathed Polotsk to his son Iziaslav. A protracted struggle between Polotsk and Kiev ensued under Briachislav Iziaslavich (1001–44), and the principality gained autonomy in 1021. It reached its apogee under Vseslav Briachislavich (1044–1101). However, under the rule of his sons, it lapsed into internecine warfare and broke up into smaller appanages, including the principalities of Minsk and Vitebsk. Hostilities with Kiev were resumed.

The political significance of the Polotsk Principality had declined by the early 13th century, when most of the principality’s towns were ceded to Smolensk and the lands on the lower reaches of the Zapadnaia Dvina were occupied by German knights of the Livonian Order. The principality was subjugated by Lithuanian princes by the mid-13th century. It was annexed to Lithuania in 1307 but retained some degree of autonomy until 1385.

REFERENCE

Alekseev, L. V. Polotskaia zemlia (Ocherki istorii Severnoi Belorussii v IX-XIII vv). Moscow, 1966.

G. S. GORSHKOV